Category Archives: Blog

The Importance of Maintaining a Base

 

by Kevin Mitchell
Senior Compliance/ Waste Management Specialist

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Mrs. Gump said life is like a box of chocolates. I think life can also be described as a series of marathons – it is an exercise of discipline and endurance, with live music and cheering fans along the way. Sometimes you’re the runner and sometimes you’re the cheerleader at mile 21. To run a successful race, one needs to train. Training begins with building a base. The ever wise Mrs. Gump is correct that you never know what you’re going to get in life; however, if you have a solid foundation, or base, you are much more likely to achieve your goals and weather challenges with less injury.
**Caution: Forrest started running and did not stop for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days and 16 hours. Do not attempt that. Mrs. Gump was a sage when it came to preparing her son for the unknowns in life, but she apparently did not cover proper training techniques for long distance running.**

Sole Memory

After a period of inconsistent exercise, I am back up to a 3-mile base. This allows me to fly into action at a moment’s notice and begin training for whatever is next – a moment’s notice is just the decision … then the work follows, which is done more efficiently and with less chance of injury once a base is established. As I was running the other day, I was reminded of two things. The first is a reminder simply worth mentioning, and the second was the inspiration for this blog (blame the endorphins): 1) it’s good to unplug and leave space for new thoughts and creativity (i.e., I ran without music and it was good to be alone with my breathing, blood pumping in my ears, and blog brainstorming); and 2) I have sole memory. No, not new shoes with high-tech squishy memory foam, but a memory and confidence of running a marathon and knowing that I could do it again. My feet and heart know the way. Amateurs (like me) typically progressively train to about 20 miles for their longest run before a marathon, so there is some mystery going into your first marathon as to whether you will ‘hit the wall’ (aka, run out of gas) (aka, bonk) (aka, not finish). The mystery is gone after the first one. We experience this concept throughout life in many ways as we reach/achieve/repeat.

Soul Memory

Our sole memory tells us we can walk the challenging paths we’ve walked before, and our experience of reaching and achieving tells us we can reach again. Of course, along the way we sometimes bite into one of those pink or orange filled gooey chocolates Mrs. Gump prophesied – YUCK, adversity! Our sole memory says “no sweat, you’ve been here before – put the uneaten half back in the box and press on.” When adversity strikes, I believe there is something else that also serves us – our soul memory. Our soul memory serves as a foundation for our intentions and actions – a memory and experience of guiding principles that do not change through adversity. And these, too, are strengthened through use. It is important to build and maintain a base level of exercise just as it is important to establish a base level of conduct and execution in our work to achieve our goals, avoid injury and serve others. It is through a strong base that we are able to reach and achieve. Strata-G’s core values with which we guard our front door include integrity, service and quality. I am thankful Strata-G is intentional about practicing these core values, which serve to maintain our corporate base in all we do. What is your base and what will you reach for next?

Thinking Globally and Acting Locally: Strata-G and Sevier County Utility District Work Together to help U.S. Achieve Energy Independence.

 

by Elliott Barnett
Operations Division Manager

 

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As Americans continue to watch gasoline and diesel prices skyrocket, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that our days are numbered for being able to rely on foreign oil as the primary motor fuel that drives our nation’s transportation sector. Strata-G is helping to create a vision that one day our great nation can and will achieve energy independence. At the center of this vision is an American resource in abundant supply; natural gas. Natural gas reserves under American soil are abundant enough, geologists say, to fuel all of our transportation energy needs for at least the next 100 years. Within this vision, lie many of the answers to the questions our country is asking these days… How do we create jobs? How can we stimulate the economy?

The benefits of using compressed natural gas (CNG) as a transportation fuel include:

• CNG is cleaner burning: Natural gas contains less carbon than gasoline or diesel fuel, and thus is considered to be the cleanest fossil fuel.

• CNG vehicles produce approximately 80% less nitrogen oxide, 25% less CO2, and 90% less particulates than gasoline or diesel powered vehicles.

• CNG is domestically produced: Utilizing CNG as a transportation fuel reduces dependency on foreign oil, and creates American (including local) jobs.

• CNG saves money: The price of CNG is approximately $1.50- $2.00 cheaper per gallon than gasoline or diesel.

• CNG improves the air quality. Locally, a growing use of CNG as a transportation fuel means the Smokies and the East TN area are protected and sustained by reducing emissions from gasoline and diesel powered vehicles.

Strata-G is working with the Sevier County Utility District (SCUD) to create and implement a comprehensive CNG project for the Sevier county area. As a first step, SCUD has constructed a CNG fueling station at their local office in Sevierville, TN. The new fueling station services their fleet as well as serving other fleets and the general public in the area. SCUD is converting their entire service fleet (35 vehicles) to be fueled with CNG. Together with SCUD, we have identified a number of other entities in the Sevier county area that are prime candidates for fleet conversion to CNG. A number of these entities are beginning to make the move towards CNG. Encouraging large commercial fleets to convert to CNG-fueled vehicles will increase demand and help underpin the area’s CNG fueling infrastructure. As the number of publically accessible CNG fueling stations increase in the area, anxiety about refueling will be diminished. The evolution of this market in the Sevier Co. area will create a significant demand for conversion kits, new CNG vehicles, and maintenance shops capable of servicing CNG vehicles, fueling equipment, fueling equipment service capabilities, and technological improvements in all of the service areas associated with this industry.

SCUD recognizes that as the supplier of natural gas to the Sevier Co. service area, they play a critically important and central role in this initiative and have therefore established a long term relationship with Strata-G. Our team also understands that the transformation from gasoline and diesel to CNG as the primary transportation fuel is a long term initiative and so we are committed to being a leader in this endeavor over the years ahead. Proactive initiatives such as this will propel the CNG market forward in Sevier County as well as serve as a model for other counties across Tennessee and the rest of the country.

The Unheralded Women of the Vietnam War

by Jeff Baldwin

Two Doughnut Dollies checking out an 80mm mortar at the 3rd Battalion 7th Infantry Base Camp located outside of Binh Chanh located about 25 miles south of Saigon (Spring 1967)

Two Doughnut Dollies checking out an 80mm mortar at the 3rd Battalion 7th Infantry Base Camp located outside of Binh Chanh located about 25 miles south of Saigon (Spring 1967)

Donut Dollies Serving in Vietnam

The Vietnam War Red Cross “Donut Dollies” were young, college-degreed women who spent a one-year tour in country as morale boosters for American troops. When they visited troops in the field they brought coffee and doughnuts and where affectionately known as “Donut Dollies.” These women were fearless and would travel to remote areas by helicopter. They visited our unit once when we were in the jungle and once while we were in the Mekong Delta. In both instances the areas we were in were not safe. Due to the ever present danger they would only visit for about twenty or thirty minutes. Unless you have been there you have no idea what a boost to the morale it was to not only see American women but to hear them speak English.

Nurses Serving in Vietnam (Third Field Hospital in Saigon)

I can’t say enough wonderful things about the nurses that served in Vietnam. I had never been cared for with such compassion up to that point in my life and since then. I fell in love with all of them. The thing that bothered me the most while I was in Vietnam was witnessing the men in my company hitting mines and booby traps. These women dealt with it on a 24/7 basis and no nursing school can prepare you for what they saw and had to deal with on a daily basis. Eight nurses lost their lives while serving in Vietnam.

Nurses Serving in the United States (Walter Reed Army Hospital)

While the nurses in Vietnam did everything possible to care for you the nurses serving at the Walter Reed Orthopedic (amputee) ward did as little as possible and I am not saying this in a disparaging way. This was by design by the Head Nurse – Major Mead. She was trying to prepare everyone in this ward for what the real world would be like upon being discharged from the hospital. Judging by her age, rank, and experience I figured she was a Korean War veteran. She was as tough as any drill sergeant I ever had encountered. If I had to put money on Major Mead or Margret Thatcher (the “Iron Lady”) I would put my money on Major Mead.

She referred to all 45 troops in that ward as her “Boys” and none of us took exception to her referring to us as her “Boys.” No one and I mean no one in that entire hospital messed with “Mead’s Boy’s.” Woe be to anyone who dared. She knew more about the medical condition of every troop in that ward than anyone else and was there at 7:00 a.m. every morning when the doctors made the rounds. If she disagreed with the doctors recommendations she would let them know. The doctors were Captains so she out ranked them and she got their attention. Major Mead is the only nurses’ name I remember. She made quite an impression on me.

Woman of the Red Cross Serving in our Military Hospitals (Walter Reed Army Hospital)

The women of the Red Cross were truly dedicated. For most of us in the Orthopedic ward at Walter Reed hospital stays lasted many months and in some cases up to one to two years. Everyone was bed ridden for at least several months and bed sores were a common problem. These women would rub body lotion all over our backs. Many of us that had full length leg casts could not reach out toes which over time would become calloused, cracked, and sometimes bleed. These women would apply lotion there also. My right arm was in a full length cast and was partially paralyzed for over ten months. These women spent many hours writing letters for me (and others that lost one or both arms) to send home and to send to other persons that I cared about.

What did all of these women have in common?

All of these women were volunteers. All of these women wanted to contribute and to make a difference and all of these women succeeded on both counts. Woman of the USA are the greatest in the world. There is no doubt about it.

Monarch Butterflies – Fragile Symbols of Hope for A Sustainable Environment

by Dan Hurst
President and Founder, Strata-G

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As we emerge from the long, cold, winter of ’13, let’s celebrate the hope we find in the sights, sounds and symbols of new life that we call spring. The emergence of a butterfly from its chrysalis is one of the most dramatic expressions of wonder, hope, and rebirth in all of nature. In fact, the ancient Greek word for butterfly was Psyche, which was also the Greek word for the soul.

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A few weeks ago, I fulfilled the only item on my very short bucket list when I visited the winter refuge of the Monarch Butterfly in Angangueo, Mexico. If you can believe it, every fall, all of the Monarch butterflies in eastern North America, some from as far away as Montreal, fly up to 3,000 miles to reach their perfect winter destination. They all overwinter near Mexico City on a few thousand fir trees in an area about the size of Dollywood; and like Dollywood, there is plenty of entertainment and food for the butterflies, who spend all winter sleeping, then awake from a 3-month siesta to an unrivaled fiesta of matchmaking and travel; well, perhaps rivaled only by spring-break in Daytona Beach.

In March, the Monarchs begin their migration north to the hill country of Texas and the midwestern US, where the females use the sensory apparatus in their antenna and feet to seek out milkweed plants, so that they can lay their eggs on the only plant type which their caterpillars can eat. Within 6 – 8 weeks, another generation of Monarchs will begin flight north from here in search of mates and milkweeds. Repeat. Repeat. These 3 generations of Monarchs live only about 6-8 weeks each, whereas the fourth generation will live for 6 months or more. In order to migrate, this Methuselah generation suspends all reproductive activity, gains an additional 20% body fat (I’m not making this up), and when the midday angle of the sun is at 55 degrees above the horizon, stops whatever its doing and begins its navigation southward to Dollywood; not really, to the Sierra Madre mountains, so that it can to roost on the Oyamel Firs until Spring arrives and says, “Buenos dias, it’s time to do it all over again”.

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Unfortunately, the overwintering sites have been severely impacted by deforestation but the remaining refuge is now protected as a World Heritage Bioreserve. Current declines of the Monarch are attributed primarily to North American agricultural practices. Our highly efficient approach to raising corn and soybeans has been great for food prices and feeding the world, but has been awful for milkweed, which is the Monarch caterpillar’s only food source. Migrating Monarchs once numbered in the billions, but only approximately 1/10th of that number were counted this year (the lowest number on record since 1976 when the colonies were discovered and first counted). The decline of the Monarch is a sobering reminder that everything in nature is part of a delicate web. As stewards of nature’s priceless ecosystems, we have the opportunity to nurture and to be nurtured; and we have the responsibility not to consume our future into oblivion. The wonders of creation are irreplaceable; with many treasures already forced into extinction and many more hanging in the balance. Try to imagine a future in which your children may never see a Monarch or hear a spring peeper. What a bummer spring that would be.

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In Mexico, I pondered how fragile the Monarchs are and yet how resilient they are. Hanging there connected to one another in drab, delicate masses of up to 100,000, I considered how their ancestors had withstood the ice ages, but wondered if their offspring could withstand our markets’ appetite for cheaper corn. I asked myself; “Is it possible for us to be stewards of the planet in a way that will avert their extinction and continue to feed our growing population?” This is a question that’s much easier to ask than answer.

I do know that we can begin to make small positive ripples though, so Kate has ordered milkweed seed for us to begin planting locally near the roadways we manage, and I encourage each of you to consider adding butterfly gardens and milkweed plantings to your landscape, available here. Our generation faces unprecedented challenges, but we have been given unprecedented gifts to solve them. As long as a Monarch caterpillar can still form its own chrysalis, reform itself to fly, and use its fragile wings to break through the comfort of the chrysalis to a new dawn; we can rejoice in the Hope of Spring!

Safety Fest TN 2014 Coming Soon!

by Jenny Freeman
Communications Manager, Strata-G

Ten years ago, a little group of safety professionals and I, definitely not a safety professional, formed the Oak Ridge Business Safety Partnership (ORBSP).  That rather unwieldy title signified that we were involved with work on DOE Oak Ridge sites, that we cared about safety, and that we had determined to work in partnership to make safety a priority on the site as well as at home.  Ten years later, the ORBSP is going strong.  In April 2014, we kicked off our anniversary year with our 35th community safety forum.  Focused on the nuclear safety culture of the Uranium Processing Facility, it was conducted like all of our safety forums, open to the public and geared to communicate lessons learned and safety ideas that work.

In 2012, the ORBSP, in partnership with URS/CH of Oak Ridge (UCOR), launched Safety Fest TN, a week of free safety training for anyone who registers. Now in its third year, Safety Fest TN will take place September 8-11 at the New Hope Center at Y-12 and will feature several outstanding safety programs in addition to offering free safety classes to those who register.  We’re also holding our popular Safety Expo, attracting over 35 safety equipment and training companies to exhibit.

Additionally, we’re looking forward to hosting the Secret City Fire Officer’s Congress, featuring three national fire hazard experts talking about fire safety.  The annual Tribute to 9/11 Fallen Firefighters will occur during the Congress.  Safety Fest TN 2014 promises to promote safety in a dynamic way, using a variety of approaches to bring safety awareness to the community.  Like safety in the workplace, we strive to make Safety Fest TN relevant and powerful so it will have a lasting impact in creating a community safety culture.

Here’s a run-down on activities and classes.  More will be added and registration, which begins on June 1, can be found at www.safetyfesttn.org

 

Monday, September 8

  • Community Safety Forum – Bruce Wilkerson, national safety speaker (sponsored by ORAU, Stoller, and WAI)
  • Community Brunch to Celebrate 10th Anniversary of the ORBSP
  • Safety Expo
  • World Class Safety workshop (this year featuring Bridgestone, DTR, Hendrickson, and Denso)
  • Safety courses (Arc Flash Hazards, Fall Prevention, Air Sampling, Hazardous Energy Control, Power Tool Safety, OSHA Recordkeeping Rule Seminar, 1st Aid/CPR Recertification)

Tuesday, September 9

  • Workshop on Safety and Risk Communication – Dr. Jeff Miller, Dr. David Duncan, and Mr. Ron Edmonds
  • Workshop on WIPP Lessons Learned – Mr. Joe Estey
  • Safety Expo
  • Safety courses (Excavation and Emergency Planning, Hoisting and Rigging Compliance, 70E, Workplace Violence, Fire Safety, Confined Space, Work Zone Traffic Control, 1st Aid/CPR Recertification)

Wednesday, September 10

  • Secret City Fire Officer’s Congress
  • Safety Courses

Thursday, September 11

  • Secret City Fire Officer’s Congress
  • Tribute to 9/11 Fallen Firefighters
  • Safety Courses

 

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Personally speaking, Safety Fest TN has made a difference in my family’s approach to safety after my husband took a Chainsaw Safety class last year.  He uses a chainsaw frequently and now sports all manner of PPE when he cuts down trees or cuts them into firewood.  Here’s a picture of Bill in his chaps, hearing and eye protection, hand protection, work boots.

Spread the word and try to attend at least one Safety Fest TN 2014 event or class.  I can personally attest to its effectiveness.

For more information, contact Jenny Freeman at jfreeman@stratag.org